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By A.J. Drexler, CEO & Chief Strategist, Campos

Pittsburgh is a trend-watching city. Once stuck in time, the capacity to identify and accept innovation is now a defining feature of this city — and the newcomers who have joined us. From Uber to Google, from our army of start-ups to last week’s opening of the Distrikt Hotel, we have become a city accustomed to looking forward rather than looking back.

This is one way that the incredibly rapid decline of steel may have actually served us. It forced us to collectively and immediately imagine a world far different from the one we saw around us.

At Campos, we take the Pittsburgh mandate of imagining the future seriously. We’re a research-driven strategy company, and each year, we join the American Marketing Association in rolling out our vision of trends for the coming year. We do so with the understanding that, in Pittsburgh, we exist among industry peers who are equally as dedicated to understanding what the future holds.

Next week, our trend-watching team will begin revealing our top trends outlook for 2018 with an event at Alloy 26, a co-working and event space on the NorthsideAs I reviewed these trends, I was struck by a unifying theme. While consumer and business trends were once siloed and thought of separately, the superseding theme this year is the convergence of the two, across virtually all industries.

When we started our trend-watching practice just six years ago, we would often hear from business attendees that, while consumer trends were interesting, they weren’t going to influence their business this year — so could we focus on some business trends? Today, thanks to advances in technology and the influence of millennials, we are witnessing what trend-watchers call “expectation transfer.” The convenience, customization and innovation people have come to expect in the consumer space are now rapidly infiltrating the business world.

A case in point: While wearables like Fitbit and Apple Watch were hot consumer products (and continue to be, with an expected 17 percent increase in purchasing over last year), this year we are talking about a Pittsburgh start-up applying that innovation to business. SolePower makes self-charging smart work boots that can accommodate a location tracker and sensors to alert the wearer to a number of conditions. The company, which has received funding from the U.S. Army, hopes to sell to the oil, gas and construction industries. A construction company might have the boots alert the user when they get too close to a dangerous area, for example, while an oil company with workers in a cold environment might outfit their boots with sensors that track temperature to prevent frostbite.

The changing landscape for B2B sales is another example of expectation transfer: Gone (or nearly gone) are the days of trade shows and catalogs. Seventy-three percent of millennials working in B2B organizations are making purchasing decisions at their companies, and they expect the benefits of the consumer online shopping experience when they’re buying for work: mobile friendly, easy-to-navigate websites, pricing comparisons, customer reviews, free shipping. Amazon Business, the tech giant’s new industrial sales division that already garners a million customers a month, is poised to disrupt vendors and industrial suppliers who can’t keep up.

These are just two examples of how fast the elevated expectations of consumers are influencing business, and there are many more. As the gap between consumer trends and business trends disappears, and innovations from the consumer arena find their way into factories and work sites in mere months, it is critical that we all keep looking forward and contribute to helping Pittsburgh remain the future-facing city we have become.

To hear more about our 2018 trends, please join us at Alloy 26, located in Nova Place on the Northside, on October 18 at 7:30 a.m. More about the event here.


A.J. Drexler

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A.J. Drexler is the CEO and Chief Strategist at Campos, a research-driven strategy firm specializing in brand planning, customer experience and innovation. She’s also on the NEXTpittsburgh advisory board.

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